It was a privilege to spend time on set in rural Britain with the great Sir David Attenborough for this profile in Audubon Magazine’s Feb 2015 issue. Even Americans who might reach for his name—“Is that the Planet Earth guy?”—would easily recognize Attenborough’s soothing, melodic voice, which has pretty much become synonymous with natural history television. Growing up, I collected VHS tapes of his films. It’s kind of remarkable that an 88-year-old in grandpa pants has managed to stay relevant—and as popular as ever—in the age of “Finding Bigfoot” and “Pit Bulls and Parolees.”
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
I have a profile in the Dec 2014 issue of Audubon Magazine about a creative USGS biologist named Sam Droege, the Johnny Appleseed of citizen science.
“It was a bright, breezy day in late April, the flowering azaleas having finally shrugged off the winter that overstayed its welcome, when Sam Droege sailed onto the grounds of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., behind the wheel of a pterodactyl. It was actually a ’98 forest-green Saturn, which Droege had painted with yellow wings and a red-and-yellow beak that tapered to a point down the center of the hood. A piece of wood, lined with a rusty crosscut saw, had been bolted to the roof: the crest. Little jingle bells, inspired by richly adorned buses in Pakistan, dangled from chains screwed into the rear bumper. Droege still had designs for neon undercarriage lights, and a mosaic of mirror shards to line the car’s ceiling–”but why stop there?” he wondered. It was a work in progress.”
For Smithsonian Magazine, I visited a school district in rural Alabama to report this story:
“Even as Roanoke struggles to leave the 20th century behind, the tablet project has brought the town to the leading edge of education. It’s an experiment, conceived by researchers at MIT and Tufts and Georgia State Universities, to determine the extent to which technology, left in the hands of children, can support reading development and literacy instruction in students with limited resources.”
In Sept. 2009, I spent one month on Tristan da Cunha, the world’s most remote inhabited island. My interest in traveling there had started with a random curiosity one night at my desk, several months earlier: What’s the psychology of living in really remote places? I Googled “world’s most remote island.” I’d never heard of Tristan, but its history, and its very existence, fascinated me. Nat Geo Traveler offered me an assignment to visit, and after a week on a polar research vessel, across the South Atlantic from Cape Town, I reached the island. There wasn’t much to do there, but of course that wasn’t the point. Living idly in a contained community so far from the rest of the world, as if in a bubble, was the experience.
Five years later, Traveler has published the story. It’s not the story I wanted to write, or the one I’d write again today, or even really my own voice — but I’m happy to see it finally in print.
In the July issue of Popular Science, I wrote about this sleek new headband that reads your brainwaves much like a heart-rate monitor detects a pulse. Its inventor, Ariel Garten, says it can train you to achieve greater focus. Eventually, it might do other things, too, like alter room lights and music in response to your mood.
In the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Land + People, the magazine of The Trust for Public Land, I profiled individuals who’ve found personal cures in the outdoors: a traumatized veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who launched a reintegration program for vets on the Appalachian Trail; a Las Vegas blackjack dealer who discovered herself on the Pacific Coast Trail; two New Hampshire quadriplegics who found their escape on accessible hiking trails; and a Massachusetts woman who, after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a horse accident, but now turns to the animals for therapy.
Oregon is home to four of the seven wild culinary truffle species native to North America, which at some point acquired a reputation as a second-rate talent compared to the prized European varieties. For the April issue of WSJ. Magazine, I went into the Oregon woods with a bilingual truffle-hunting dog named Tom, and wrote about the effort to rehabilitate the stature of American truffles.
Two years ago this month, I volunteered to be a test subject in an Imperial College of London research study exploring the brain effects of psilocybin. I was dosed intravenously with the drug, and then monitored, as I sat tripping under an MEG scanner, at the Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre in Wales. That study is now out, in the Journal of Neuroscience. Essentially, the researchers discovered that psilocybin’s effect is to disrupt the normal, regularly timed firing of neurons in the brain’s posterior cingulate cortex (PCC). This is usually a very ordered and organized activity, but under the drug, becomes disorderedly and chaotic; neurons fire willy-nilly. It would seem that our very notion of a self hinges on the timing of neurons: mess with their routine, the ego dissolves, and, suddenly, all appears one in the universe….
In the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Men’s Fitness, I wrote a feature about the commingling of endurance sports and business networking in Silicon Valley, and the Bay Area’s particular breed of hyperfit tech entrepreneurs.
In this weekend’s (Dec. 22) New York Times Travel section, I wrote (and shot) the cover story about a ski trip to Russia, to the new resorts built near Sochi, the site of the coming Winter Games.
I also paid tribute to my grandfather Irv Isaacson, who lived in Denver, built the first ski lodge at Winter Park, Colo., was a great lover and champion of the sport, and created ski art and souvenirs.
Until then, skiers mainly collected patches and pins of ski areas like Aspen and Stowe. Irv was one of the first to take these souvenirs further, turning out high-quality mugs, shot glasses, brandy snifters, champagne flutes, ashtrays and beer mugs bearing resort names and logos – the sort of branded keepsakes that are ubiquitous today. The posters he designed were satirical, poking fun at the sport’s elitism and cultural stereotypes:
Last year, I traveled to Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong Hill Tracts) Peru (Lima, Amazon), Fiji, Kenya and Indonesia on behalf of the Disability Rights Fund, an organization that supports Disabled Persons Organizations in the developing world that advocate for the human rights of persons with disabilities.
You can view it here. Here are some additional photos from my reporting:
Bill Gates is paying big for better contraception. For The New Republic, I wrote about what scientists have come up with.
Last summer, I visited Croatia for the Wall Street Journal Magazine to profile 25-year-old prodigy Mate Rimac, who has built the fastest electric car in the world. Now his innovative designs are being licensed by manufacturers building the next generation of supercars. Read about it in the November 2013 issue of WSJ. Also shot this cover portrait:
A piece online at The New Yorker: Last year, an unusual Wyoming real-estate deal made international headlines: the tiny town of Buford, population one, had been purchased by an anonymous Vietnamese businessman. What did the buyer want with an exit off the interstate containing little more than a trading post and a pair of gas pumps? It was unclear; the businessman flew back to Vietnam without saying, and, until Tuesday, there had been little news from Buford….
I wrote and photographed a feature in the Sept 2013 issue of Popular Science. World War II combat pilots have been lost at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for nearly 70 years. Last March, in Palau, I joined a group of engineers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and amateur marine archeologists from the Bent Prop Project, as they deployed autonomous robots to find them.
On The New Yorker’s Elements blog, I have a piece about a NASA experiment on the flanks of Mauna Loa, Hawaii, to test different cooking methods for Mars habitation.
I shot and wrote the feature in this month’s issue of United’s in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, about aÂ controversialÂ character in the Peruvian desert who is trying to defend the world’s largest trove of marine fossils from commercial scavengers.
Spent the day with the climbers who clean wind turbines, for this text/photo feature in the March/April 2013 issue of Sierra.
In the March 2013 Interior Design issue of Dwell magazine, I profiled San FranciscoÂ modern architect Abigail Turin.
250 young Bay Area professionals walk into a bar, surrender their phones, and try to hang on….
In the NYT Sunday Styles section.
I covered an intimate and very interesting event in San Francisco on Friday — the Freedom Forum — which brought together Burmese opposition leaderÂ Aung San Suu Kyi and various inspiring activists from around the world. Here at The Daily Beast.
Wrote a short piece, with pictures, in today’s Science Times, about a magnificent Buddhist capital, Bagan, in Myanmar, and how the country’s recent political changes is/will affect cultural heritage and archaeology.
Your way into my cover story in this weekend’s Travel section might be RVs, road trips, The Greatest RV Rally in the World, doggie swimsuit competition, retired people, redwoods, hot springs, or Paul Bunyan. Any which way, there’s something for everyone.
This lengthy piece was a labor of love, a two-year process from assignment (originally for The New York Times Magazine) to its birth (at The Atlantic). For various reasons, it turns out that it’s hard to get a story published in mainstream American media that goes deep into sex, design, engineering, medical history, and pop culture. I’m delighted it found a great home.